The question has arisen in German orchestras as a result of a law designed to protect expectant mothers and unborn babies. Germany has the lowest birth rate in the Europe and the fastest shrinking demographics, so you can see why politicians are concerned.
The Mutterschutzgesetz (MuSChG) decrees that a woman cannot be required to work during her last six weeks of pregnancy. If she insists on coming to work, the employer has to put in place a whole range of protective measures to shield her from, for example, high noise levels. This is causing much furrowing of brows in orchestras. An article in the May edition of Das Orchester (not online) shows how they are trying to cope.
This is, without doubt, an enlightened piece of legislation, but I’m not sure how sensible it is for musicians. There are plenty of cases where a singer has given birth between two acts of an opera without harmful effects (except for the audience, which had to wait around and accept a second-act substitute). I often see musicians in advanced stages of pregnancy playing dreamily on stage to the benefit of all around them. Civilisation has advanced several light-years beyond the time when expectant mothers were put in purdah for the duration.
Shouldn’t musicians be exempted from this mollycoddling law? In the absence of a specific medical concern in an individual case, is there any reason a musician should not be allowed to play – if she wants to – up to the last minute?